When Giants Fall

I have been spending the past few days with my elderly father. He wanted to take a trip to see a friend who goes away for the winter. Because of his advanced age, it was not possible for him to go alone although he intended to do so. My siblings and I were very concerned about his plans, and so I offered to go along with him on the trip. Frankly, I manipulated my way on the trip.

This has been an eye opening experience.

I have always looked at my dad as larger than life. He is from the Greatest Generation and while he has never been an emotional man, he’s been a good father and was a faithful husband to my mom during their 63 year marriage. He loved her to the day she died and he’s not been quite the same since.

He always had a job, we had a nice home, and he worked very hard. He cared for our home and yard between golfing and his other sporting activities.

When I was a child, my dad had all the answers. He seemed to know everything. An avid reader, he was able to tell me anything I needed to know. He could fix anything that broke, and he only needed a pattern to make something we needed. It is from him that I developed my love for history, museums, and nature. I wish I had appreciated it more when I was young.

My childhood memories are pleasant. While he was stern and demanded obedience, in retrospect he was desperately trying to reign in a rebellious girl in a world and society that was changing faster than he could keep up with.
I wish I had appreciated him more when I was young.

He is not the same man. In the sunset of his life he is not steady on his feet and frequently loses his balance. In spite of this, he still bowls and dances. He can’t hear well, even with 2 hearing aids so he misses most of what is going on around him. Never one for small talk, he spends large blocks of time in silence.  He dozes off- a lot.

Once able to answer any question, his memory has faded badly and now everything has a label. He can’t be left alone for an entire day. He can tell you a story from WWII or his early life but he gets easily confused and forgets what happened thirty minutes ago.  

This is not my dad. 

I have had that thought more times than I can count on this trip. There are sparks of the dad I knew, but overall, he is feeble and it is clear he doesn’t have many more years of independent or even assisted living left. 

This makes me sadder than I can express. When giants fall the sound echoes throughout the land.